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Man Accused In Deadly Kalamazoo Shooting Spree Pleads Guilty

January 07, 2019 - 4:08 pm

KALAMAZOO​ (WWJ/AP) - A Michigan man charged with gunning down half-a-dozen strangers between picking up Uber passengers has pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder, just before attorneys were set to interview jurors for his trial.

Authorities said Jason Dalton shot at people in three different locations in and around Kalamazoo while driving for the ride-sharing service on Feb. 20, 2016, killing six people and wounding two others.

Four women were killed in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant: Barbara Hawthorne, Dorothy "Judy" Brown, Mary Lou Nye and her sister-in-law, Mary Jo Nye. Rich Smith and his 17-year-old son, Tyler Smith, were fatally shot while looking at a pickup truck in a dealer's lot.

Abigail Kopf, who was 14 at the time, was shot in the head during the restaurant shooting and survived. Tiana Carruthers was injured in a residential area.

None of the victims were Uber passengers. 

Dalton told investigators after his arrest that an evil entity made him do it; saying when you “plug into” the Uber app “you can actually feel the presence on you.” He said the difference between the night of the shootings and others was that an icon on the Uber app that is normally red “had changed to black.”

Dalton also described how the Uber app on his cell phone took him over the day of the shootings, saying that at one point he went to his home, put several guns into a bag and put them in his vehicle.

Dalton had been deemed competent to stand trial and last week dropped an insanity defense. 

According to a report by WOOD-TV, Dalton's defense attorney, Eusebio Solis, said Dalton decided to plead guilty against his advice to spare his family and the families of the victims the grief of a trial.

Dalton, the father of two children, had worked as an insurance adjuster and had no previous criminal record before the shootings.

"Yes, I've wanted this for quite a while," Dalton replied when a judge asked if the pleas were voluntary. He did not explain why he went not the rampage. 

Prosecutor Jeff Getting said the motive behind the shootings is a question that "haunts us."

"Everybody wants to know," he said during a news conference after the court hearing.

At sentencing, set for Feburary 5, Dalton faces mandatory life in prison without parole after he spends up to 16 years in prison for the gun charges.